Puppy Raisers Making a Difference: Cessna and Alyssa

By | 4 Paws University, Autism Assistance, Service Dog Stories, Wittenberg

From the second I met Cessna, I was head over heels in love. Being my first 4 Paws for Ability foster, I had no idea how quickly he would become my best friend and how deeply I would bond with him. Throughout the 8 ½ half months that he lived with me, we only grew closer, which made his give back day all the more difficult.

My roommate and I picked Cessna up when he was 4 months old. We were shocked at how intelligent he was at this age, already knowing sit, down, and shake like he had been doing them for years. When we introduced him to new commands, he was such a quick learner, easily mastering things like ‘place’, ‘under’, and ‘hit it’. He wasn’t frightened by any loud noises or strange sights that he encountered, making it easy to take him practically anywhere with us. He thrived during trips to the grocery store, sporting events, and malls, and we were amazed by his unwavering confidence at all times.

Fostering was not without its challenges, but as Cessna grew up before our eyes we realized that it was his destiny to become a service dog. Cessna never met a person he didn’t like – he especially loved children of all sizes! He behaved impeccably in public and listened very well when given commands. There was nothing that he couldn’t handle. Perhaps his best quality however, was his ability to love unconditionally. The moment that best describes this was a night in which I had a mental breakdown, something that had greatly decreased in frequency since getting Cessna. That night, I had already put Cessna in his kennel for bedtime. Approximately 15 minutes later, the breakdown began and I knew immediately what I needed to stop it. I opened the kennel door, and without saying anything walked back into my room, where I curled up on my bed. Cessna jumped right up after me and began to nuzzle my arms before laying down with his body right up against mine. I’m not entirely sure how he knew what to do in the absence of commands, but it worked. He performed his first behavior disruption that night and I saw what an amazing service dog he was going to become.

Cessna and I were practically attached at the hip, so his sense of intuition was strong, but my love for him was even stronger. When I received the message that he was matched with a family after advanced training, I was ecstatic. I was overwhelmed with pride and joy at the fact that I had helped socialize a service dog and that I had thereby helped a family in need. Hearing that he was going to be an autism assistance dog made so much sense to me because he was always so loyal and perceptive. Cessna knew what I needed even if I didn’t know, and he stuck with me through good times and bad. His incredible sense of smell makes him perfect for tracking, and his ability to adapt to new situations assists him in helping his kiddo deal with change. On the day I watched him graduate as an official autism assistance service dog, it was a dream come true. I beamed from ear to ear at having the chance to meet his new family and see him one last time for a final goodbye. That day was bittersweet, but still today I feel extremely blessed to have been Cessna’s foster mom. Cessna will always have part of my heart wherever he goes, and he will forever be in mine.

Puppy Raiser – Emalie Taylor

By | 4 Paws University, Volunteer, Wittenberg

16640719_10212187378986048_3555785457882041984_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Emalie Taylor
School:  Wittenberg University 
Major:  Exercise Science with a double minor in psychology and health science 
Dogs: 1 through 4paws (Valkyrie) 

4 Paws for Ability is an amazing program that I’m forever grateful to have been apart of. Knowing that I’ve helped to make someone’s life a little easier and gain a little more independence is truly amazing. Socializing Valkyrie has had a huge impact on who I’ve become and has enriched my college experience. I’m excited to continue working with this program and see all of the amazing things they do.

Puppy Raiser – Alyssa Tomcho

By | 4 Paws University, Volunteer, Wittenberg

16472790_1433699579982166_1452473653411773081_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Alyssa Tomcho
Major:  Biology (Pre-veterinary)
School:  Wittenberg University
Dogs fostered:  I’ve had one 4 Paws pup (2 semesters)

As soon as I found out about the 4 Paws University Program, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. What I didn’t know, was how much the experience would change me. Fostering a service dog in training has taught me a lot about the role that service dogs have. During my time as a foster, I have learned a great deal about responsibility, dog behavior, and communication – all of which will assist me in my future as a veterinarian. I have learned to appreciate the little things, like trips to the store and the learning of a command, and I have grown as a person overall. I am honored to have been a part of an organization where I can make a difference in someone’s life, and I hope to be able to continue assisting 4 Paws for Ability in the future.

4 Paws college grads walk with 4-legged co-eds

By | 4 Paws University, University of Kentucky, Wittenberg

4 Paws for Ability is proud to announce several college graduations, which includes some of our Campus Program participants and their service dogs in-training.

Many of our students will be walking during commencement with their 4 Paws foster dogs, who are service dogs in-training, who will eventually be placed with children with disabilities.

The University Program is a win-win for the students and the dogs.

Chelsea with Skylark“It’s great for the students because it really boosts their confidence, as they must take their dogs into public and answer questions as they are posed by onlookers. It also teaches them how to care for another individual. They have to be very responsible around the clock,” says Jessa Brown, University Program Coordinator and Trainer at 4 Paws for Ability.

“It’s good for the dogs because it gives them a lot of socialization, which makes them confident in public. This is vital for a 4 Paws for Ability service dog.”

“I cannot wait to meet her future family and see the smiles Mitzi brings to their faces,” says Moira Beebe, a graduating biology major at Wittenberg University. “She is such an amazing dog and I was a small part of that.  Mitzi is one of my favorite college memories and now she is going to a family where she will be valued, loved and cherished.” 

“I did some research on 4 Paws for Ability and discovered what a fantastic organization it is. I wanted to get to know families with these dogs, as well as the dogs themselves!” says Beth Kupferie, a special education graduate from Miami University.

“I will be graduating, but I would love to continue fostering and working with 4 Paws if I stay in the area.”

Graduates include:

Wright State University-

  • Shannon Schraeder with Fievel
  • Chelsea Crager with Skylark
  • Victor Colon with Mister
  • Erin Bittner with Kailani

Wittenberg University-

  • Claire Shannon with Bippa
  • Meredith Troy and Abby Debner with Mango
  • Eric Werner and Rory Eustace with Aisling
  • Kelly Brothers and Sean Williams with Beezus
  • Moira Beebe and Jonna Sakowski with Mitzi

Cedarville University-

  • Sandi Patton with Ramona

Miami University-

  • Sarah Cesler and Kelsey Myrhofer with Boeing
  • Olivia Kerrigan and Beth Kupferie with Banshee


-By Jessica Noll-Korczyk


*To donate, helping us fund more campus training, click here.

Students Team With 4 Paws for Ability To Train Service Dog

By | 4 Paws University, Wittenberg

Since 2009, Wittenberg students have being playing a critical role in preparing dogs for service to others, thanks to Sarah Kelly, vice president for enrollment management and dean of students.

“I read an article about the 4Paws program on CNN.com and when I learned that the program is based in Xenia, I arranged a meeting with Karen, the executive director, to discuss the possibility of starting a student handler-trainer program here,” Kelly said. “Wittenberg’s program started with four dogs in the spring of 2009.

“Since then, we’ve trained close to 40 dogs,” Kelly added. “It has become a student-led initiative, and I serve solely as an advisor—the students do it all, and I’m really proud of the job they do.”

Read the story on Wittenberg’s website.